I spoke with Sam Lerner about The Goldbergs, the ‘80s, what it’s like to be Geoff Schwartz, having Barry as a friend, Erica, and so much more. The Goldbergs is one of the best comedies on television right now. If you are a fan of the ‘80s this show has and is everything. The season even opened with an incredible homage to The Breakfast Club. What more do you want? It was great to chat with Sam and find out a bit more about the show and what’s going on with Geoff. Don’t miss a single episode of The Goldbergs, which airs Wednesday nights at 8/7c on ABC.
LL: You were great in Suburgatory.
Sam Lerner: That’s so nice. Thank you. Yes, another ABC sitcom.
LL: The Goldbergs is such a fun show to watch, so what is it like to be in it?
Sam Lerner: It’s honestly amazing. I came on in season two and I think they were, kind of, still finding themselves. It was obviously still a great show. I was just watching the new episode and when I got to work, the next day, I told them that this show is getting better. Every season the writing gets better, as the characters are growing. It’s such a magical environment to work in because it’s the ‘80s and everyone is just so excited to be there. It’s, kind of, just magical to work there. I honestly have to pinch myself sometimes that I even get to work there.
LL: By working on the show, you’re getting a chance to, sort of, experience life in the ‘80s.
Sam Lerner: Yes. It’s so funny in the table reads, all the young cast has to ask so many questions. Even the kids on the show, the son and the daughter, there will be references and they will ask questions, so I don’t get embarrassed when I also don’t know the references.
LL: You must be enjoying the fashion and the music?
Sam Lerner: It’s so incredible. My character, unless it’s one of those fun episodes like Dirty Dancing or we just shot an episode about the Globetrotters—we have full-on real Harlem Globetrotters jerseys on, normally just wears baggy jeans and polo shirts. That’s really my character’s staple wardrobe.
LL: Do you think you could live Geoff’s life for a year?
Sam Lerner: He’s getting smarter but he’s a real dumb guy. I don’t know. He’s fun but it reminds me a lot of when I was in school—skateboarding with friends and his buddies are his whole life. He’s got this whole love triangle thing. I could probably hang. I could do it. [Laughing.]
LL: One of my favorite characters on the show is Barry (Troy Gentile). What is it like to be friends with Barry?
Sam Lerner: That character is one of the funniest on TV. Every episode, we will be at a table read and just the lines that he has—the lines that they give him for every situation—he’s the most confident moron that there is. It is so amazing to just be a part of it. When we have lines backing him up, we are just so dumb also. I think that Barry character is incredible. He’s so funny. He always gets the bulk of the humor on the show. I love the Barry character. I think Troy is just a genius. He’s so funny.
LL: When you do the table reads, does he scream and lose his mind?
Sam Lerner: Oh, yeah. People go all out. They want to see what it’s going to be like. There is also a lot of singing all the time. I just had to sing at the table read. It was the most embarrassing thing that I’ve done in my entire life. The creator of the show, Adam Goldberg, actually sent me the music before the table read and he wanted to see it full out. He wanted me to go and rehearse the music. I was in there with all of the writers, producers, and some of the network executives and I’m singing. I can decently sing. I did musical theatre in high school, but I’m not at all confident singing in the table read in front of my boss and all the important people.
LL: It must be great having your father [Ken Lerner] around to help. Do you work with him a lot?
Sam Lerner: It’s obviously amazing that I can go to him anytime when I have questions about the business. He also happens to be an acting coach. He does private lessons and classes. Yeah, he’s been coaching me my whole life. I have a free live-in coach and whenever I need help I just go to him. It’s amazing. His brother, Michael, is also a character actor that has been around forever. He was nominated for an Oscar. They are both just so experienced and so knowledgeable that it’s amazing to have access to that.
LL: You mentioned the Dirty Dancing/Footloose [“The Dirty Dancing Dance”] episode from last season. That episode was too much, just so much fun. Do you have some favorite Geoff moments?
Sam Lerner: It was amazing. That episode had a lot of them. A lot of times he’s with the guys just yelling and being a meathead. I like it when you get to see the sweet side of him. We are seeing more and more of him and the things between him and the Erica character are, kind of, getting a little more serious. I like when I’m able to play his earnestness and his sweetness because it’s just so different from what I’m used to doing. It’s nice to give him that layer that he’s really a nice guy that really cares about his friends, about Erica (Haley Orrantia), and about all of the different stuff. There was one last season where he was trying to impress Erica on a skateboard and he just falls so hard. That was fun. They actually hired a stunt guy to do the actual fall, but I got on set and I told them I would do it. I just did it and they ended up using that take. That was fun.
LL: Do you hope that Erica and Geoff end up on the same page at some point in the series?
Sam Lerner: I personally do just because it’s been drawn out for so long. It’s kind of like the Jim and Pam thing from The Office. It’s the will they won’t they that has been going on for almost two seasons. I don’t know what their plan is, I truly don’t. I’m sure they know but they wouldn’t tell me. [Laughing.] I do hope they do because I think Geoff is such a sweetheart and Erica, now that she likes him, I think it could be really special. The Evelyn character, played by Allie Grant, is fantastic and Allie is one of the funniest people that I know. She was also on Suburgatory with me. I’ve never had this before but the fans are sending me tweets every single day. They combine our names into Gerica. “I need Gerica to be together.” “It has to happen or my life won’t go on.” All these really sweet girls are sending me that stuff. I feel like, even for them, I would like them to get together.
LL: You have some very passionate fans.
Sam Lerner: Yes, they are. It’s pretty amazing. I’ve never really dealt with that before.
LL: This season the show has already covered The Breakfast Club, Live Aid, The Brady Bunch, video dating, etc. What else can we expect to see this season?
Sam Lerner: We just shot something with the Globetrotters. Halloween is a cool one. I’m not sure if I can say what it is. We just shot it a few weeks ago and it’s really great. There is some really nice Geoff and Erica stuff in there. That is one that I had to sing, which was very embarrassing. I think I might have pulled it off. We were supposed to do an episode about Les Miserables but I don’t think that that worked out. We are doing a different musical, which is just as cool, if not cooler, but I’m not sure if it’s been announced yet. The Breakfast Club was the big homage episode this year but I’m sure that they have amazing stuff lined up. Adam is like a well of ideas for amazing ‘80s movies and references. I’m sure that we have a lot of cool stuff coming up.
LL: Can you talk about working with Adam Goldberg and being a part of his actual life stories?
Sam Lerner: The guy is like the coolest person in the world. He just has all of these tapes from when he was younger, which is amazing to just have those memories and access to that. His family is so open and they tell all these amazing stories. They are on Twitter and they interact with people. His family is pretty amazing. The fact that they made a show about them is awesome. He cares so much about the show. It’s his whole life literally. He oversees everything and his attention to detail with little things is amazing. Just to be on his radar and for him to like me is really, really special. The fact that they brought me back so many times is really special to me.
LL: I’m glad we are getting more of Geoff this season.
Sam Lerner: So far I’m working a lot. I think there should be a decent amount of Geoff this season.
LL: What would you miss the most about present day life if you had to go back to the ‘80s?
Sam Lerner: It would be kind of cool to not have an iPhone. No one would have iPhones and people would have to actually talk to each other and interact with each other. That’s a really great question. I guess I would miss Netflix and Apple TV. Is that a bad answer? [Laughing.] I like those things.
LL: You would have to actually get a VHS tape from a local video store. [Laughing.]
Sam Lerner: Oh, my gosh! That is disgusting. [Laughing.]
LL: What other projects are you working on?
Sam Lerner: Right now it’s pretty much just The Goldbergs. Over the summer I did this film called Fun Mom Dinner that’s really, really cool. It’s produced by Paul Rudd and Adam Scott. I have a pretty small part in it but it’s going to be a really fun movie. The cast is awesome: Toni Collette, Molly Shannon—pretty much a bunch of comedy legends in it. That was really cool to be a part of. The Goldbergs is really taking up the majority of my time, so just those. The Golbdergs is an awesome show that’s just getting better.
The Goldbergs airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on ABC.
Sam Lerner on Twitter: https://twitter.com/SammyLerner
The Goldbergs on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheGoldbergsABC
The Goldbergs on Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheGoldbergsABC
Photo: Sami Drasin
Episodic Photos: ABC